Employers need to approach the development of a social media policy in an organised and planned fashion and ensure that it is consistent with the organisation’s mission, strategy and values, Gartner has advised.
Social media provides “tempting opportunities” to interact more effectively with employees, customers, prospects, business partners and other anonymous users, but also “disrupts the long-standing rules of business in many ways”, according to Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at the researcher.
As a result, she said: “Those who participate in social media need guidance from their employer about the rules, responsibilities, ‘norms’ and behaviours expected of them, and these topics are commonly covered in the social media policy.”
This means that social policy designers much ask themselves seven critical questions. The first relates to what the organisation’s social media strategy actually is. Objectives can range from monitoring to co-creation and affect four key groups – employees, customers and prospects, business partners and the social web – but the aim is to have a clear idea of the purpose of any initiative before it is implemented.
Therefore, it is important to clarify the business’ mission, strategy, values and desired outcomes in order to inform the direction that social media projects should take and understand how such aims are likely to impact them. A social media strategy plan can be useful in this context.
But it is also necessary to agree on who should write and revise the supporting policy and who will be responsible and accountable for it – although a cross-section of the company, including HR, IT and legal, should be involved in the creation process.
It is also important to remember that there is a difference between policy, which outlines high level do’s and don’ts, and operational processes such as recruitment and customer support that may employ social media. While processes will need to be flexible even as they adhere to the policy, each department will have to work out specific governance and process guidelines.
The third thing to consider is how the policy will be vetted. Broad feedback is advisable to ensure that issues ranging from legal, security and corporate branding are adequately addressed and balanced and that there is buy-in from a broad range of functions. This means that the process under which the policy is reviewed must be laid out in the final version along with any feedback.
However, there is no point coming up with a well-written and comprehensive policy without backing it up with well-designed communications plan and training scheme in order to inform employees of their responsibilities. Staff need to understand not only what the organisation hopes to gain from participating in social media, but how it impacts them and what they do with it as individuals.
Fifth on the list is working out who will enforce the policy and how, at the same time as ensuring that the organisation is obtaining the desired results from using the channel. While managers will need to understand the policy and know how to spot inappropriate activity, their role should be one of guidance to support team self-moderation rather than adopting a top down, monitor-and-control approach.
Some managers may also need support and training in how best to help employees work out the best approach to take when engaging with social media tools, which includes writing blogs and microblogs, however.
Finally, organisations should review their social media initiatives to understand if they met their objectives and use such insights to improve existing efforts or plan more effectively for future projects.